In advance of his testimony on Capitol Hill, Jared Kushner provided a statement that included the assertion that he “did not collude, nor know of anyone else in the campaign who colluded, with any foreign government.” Some may wonder how he could make this claim knowing that he attended a meeting that was intended to acquire a tangible benefit from a foreign power. The answer lies in the legal definition of collusion, which is:
Collusion: n. where two persons (or business entities through their officers or other employees) enter into a deceitful agreement, usually secret, to defraud and/or gain an unfair advantage over a third party, competitors, consumers or those with whom they are negotiating. Collusion can include secret price or wage fixing, secret rebates, or pretending to be independent of each other when actually conspiring together for their joint ends. It can range from small-town shopkeepers or heirs to a grandma’s estate, to gigantic electronics companies or big league baseball team owners.
This is a very specific definition which is applicable in a very narrowly defined set of statutes. As far as federal elections go, there is no statute that addresses “collusion.” So, no matter what the final outcome might be, Kushner is telling the truth when he states he didn’t collude in this narrowly-defined context.
As far as the layperson’s understanding goes, that isn’t the case. Even though the term collusion does not appear in 11 CFR 110.20, “Prohibition on contributions, donations, expenditures, independent expenditures, and disbursements by foreign nationals” (52 U.S.C. 30121, 36 U.S.C. 510), most people would likely understand that violating the prohibition against soliciting or receiving “money or other thing of value” from a foreign source to be colluding in the sense of gaining an unfair advantage. Nevertheless, the term does not technically apply.
Hiding behind semantics won’t provide any legal defense should Kushner or Trump Jr. or others find themselves charged with violating federal election law – and to be clear, no one has yet been charged. Semantics does provide an opportunity to claim under oath, “I didn’t do that specific thing,” without having to worry about perjury charges later; and the semantics argument allows a potential public relations victory, as they are technically not lying about not colluding. But that is as far as that claim will travel. If charged under the above cited statute, any claims that one did not violate a specific term found in a different statute will be utterly irrelevant.
In short, don’t worry about “collusion;” worry about violation of 11 CFR 110.20.